pills medication health

The team behind Medicamentalia, an in-depth investigation into access to medication in different parts of the world, will publish the third part the project this month, taking a look at access to contraception and the factors determining its availability in various countries.

The project was started in 2015 by Civio, a Spanish non-profit organisation that monitors public authorities.

Its first part, primarily based on data from Health Action International, looked at the prices of medication and how they compare around the globe, finding out for example that a 25mg cap or tablet of Captopril, which is used to protect the heart after a heart attack, costs the equivalent of one hour of work in Spain, two hours in Germany, almost three and a half days of work in Armenia, and about four days and two hours in Pakistan.

The second part of the investigation, published in 2017, explored the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and governments in relation to vaccine procurement, and the impact of the anti-vaccination movement on immunisation rates.

To produce the collaborative data investigation, the Medicamentalia team at Civio works with partners in various countries to collect, clean and analyse data.

Partners can also contribute data from their own countries to make comparisons more relevant to their region.

Screenshot from Medicamentalia's report on access to the HPV vaccine

The project, funded through three grants for innovation in development reporting, is the first international reporting initiative from Civio and has already received two journalism awards: the Gabriel García Márquez 2016 in innovation, and the Best Investigation of the Year 2016 (small newsroom) in the Data Journalism Awards.

"The three projects are related to access to health, but they are focusing not only on different areas but also in different ways to approach it, such as prices, relationship with government, and this latest one is more focused on how beliefs or religions have an impact on access to contraception," said Eva Belmonte, journalist and head of projects and managing editor of Medicamentalia.

Each of the previous two parts of Medicamentalia have resulted in a mix of data stories, visualisations, and pieces taking a more in-depth look at some of the issues highlighted by the data and the factors influencing them.

Stories published so far include a data visualisation comparing the cost of medication in several countries, 11 days' wages to buy an asthma inhaler; Boko Haram violence, corruption and poverty, causes of poor immunisation coverage in Nigeria, published in partnership with the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting; and English and Swiss doctors are more transparent than German and Spanish ones, for example.

The third investigation, due to be published at the end of February, will also feature a documentary, the first one ever produced by the team.

The project's media partners, such as Euronews, El Mundo, La Sexta, Correctiv and La Nation, have been contributing to the reach of the investigation as well as adding new international comparisons, with varying levels of involvement throughout the reporting stages depending on newsroom data skills and resources.

But establishing partnerships has been one of the bigger challenges for the team, as it can be difficult to explain the benefits of taking part in such an international collaboration to journalists and editors who have never worked in this way before.

"We want to publish with as many media as we can so for us the most difficult part of everything is trying to convince and collaborate and coordinate with traditional media," said Belmonte.

The data and stories from Medicamentalia are published under a Creative Commons license. Specifications about contributions and republishing can be found separately for each part of the project, accompanied by detailed notes on the methodology and origin of the data used.

Applications for a new round of funding as part of the Innovation in Development Reporting Programme, which supports Medicamentalia, are currently open until 21 February.

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